You can pardon just about anyone for wondering if a defensive back from an NAIA school, just about the lowest rung of college football, could really hang with NFL players.
Malcolm Elmore of Central Methodist University, the player we’re focused on today, did. Until, that is, he ran a low 4.4s 40-yard dash at the Missouri Western Jr. Pro Day in the spring of 2019 and realized he could hold up athletically against players from higher levels of competition.
“The funny thing is did Malcolm see it coming? For me seeing him every day as far as the defensive back side I knew that he had potential,” said CMU defensive backs coach LaQuentin Black. “I think it kinda gave him a wakeup call when he went down there and ran that 40 time that ‘hey, I think I can do this.’ “
The fast 40 got the attention of NFL scouts — speed always does. They began to study Elmore, but were hardly convinced.
“Every scout that came in was like this kid checks off all the boxes, is he real?,” said Black. “It was easy for us to be like this kid deserves a shot. He’s going to be a kid that’s going to be able to do what he needs to do to put himself in a situation to be successful.”
The Giants, after watching him practice and play, talking to his coaches and getting to know the 22-year-old, are giving him an opportunity as an undrafted free agent.
Let’s take a closer look.
Position: Defensive back
Contract: Year 1 of three-year, $2.285 million contract | RFA: 2023
How he got here
Elmore played 35 games for Central Methodist with 133 tackles, 8 interceptions, and 15 pass breakups. Per at least one site, Malcolm was the highest-ranked NAIA cornerback on draft boards.
Elmore, despite being a first-team All-State wide receiver and second-team All-State kick returner in his home state of Missouri, ended up at Central Methodist.
Black, who arrived at CMU after Elmore, wasn’t sure of the circumstances.
“He might have been just overlooked,” Black said.
Elmore was recruited to CMU as a running back, but was switched to cornerback out of necessity midway through his freshman season.
Black said Elmore was “very raw” when he began coaching at CMU in 2017, but that he has “Done everything the right way throughout that transition process and made it easy for us as a coaching staff to be able to get him in the position he’s in now.”
The Giants have a former NAIA player, placekicker Aldrick Rosas, on their roster. Still, placekicker and cornerback are vastly different and the mountain Elmore has to clim to stick with the Giants would seem a difficult one.
The 2020 best-case scenario for Elmore is likely that he does enough to convince the Giants he deserves a spot on what is now a 12-man practice squad, where he can learn and adjust to the NFL.
Black said Elmore does have a few things going for him.
He is an intelligent kid who has been honored as an NAIA Scholar Athlete.
He played primarily boundary corner for CMU, but has played in the slot, played safety and trailed No. 1 wide receivers in man coverage.
He can return kicks. It’s something he did only rarely at CMU because, as Black said, “he was very valuable to us from the defensive standpoint. We were trying to keep him out of getting hit if we could.”
Elmore, though, was All-State as a high school kick returner and Black is confident he could handle that role in the NFL.
“I honestly, truly think that he can (make it in the NFL),” Black said. “Number one, his work ethic. He’s brilliant with picking things up. It doesn’t take him a long time to be able to grasp a playbook.
“Just a tremendous kid. If he can get with the Giants in the right system for him that he can stick and do what he needs to do to be able to make a good long career out of it for sure.”